10 Insights into the Art of Persuasion

Whenever we want to get our own way and there is resistance, we try to persuade the other person or group of people to accept our way of thinking. This could be as simple as convincing your significant other that you should go to restaurant (a) instead of restaurant (b). Persuasion is a regular part of selling, management, leadership, and teamwork. The question is, what steps can you take to increase the chances that your argument will win out?

Here are ten things you can do to make yourself more persuasive.

  1. Be consistent and logical with your message. When faced with other people’s arguments, it's tempting but dangerous to change your reasoning in a way that is inconsistent with your original rationale. If you believe you are correct, then be consistent in your logic. Don’t ramble; present your strongest point first, followed by your backup reasoning.

  2. Understand that people process information differently. Your argument should not be one size fits all. An analytical person will need facts, stats, and a whole bunch of logic. A driver personality needs to see the benefit to them in your argument. An expressive, high-energy person will get onside quicker if you tell them a story. Quieter, more reserved individuals will seek guarantees and proof that what you say is safe to believe.

  3. When putting forward your argument, understand the difference between subjective and objective information. Demonstrate that you have looked at all sides of the situation, the pros and the cons, and show why you believe your suggestion is the right course of action or choice. Be open about how your opinion might have changed in the light of your research and factfinding and that you fully understand the opposing view.

  4. Establish your credibility more through the experience you have with the topic at hand than your qualifications. Tell stories about how your experiences have shaped your opinion.

  5. Always have the best interests of those you are trying to persuade at the forefront, whether that is an individual or a team. Think long-term relationship, not short-term win. If people see this, they are more likely to agree with you.

  6. Ask questions about why individuals have an opposing view. Why do they believe what they believe? Do they have direct experience? Are they basing it on hearsay? Do they have facts to back up what they are saying? Understanding where they are coming from will allow you to develop persuasive arguments.

  7. If you witness hesitancy in agreeing with your point of view, probe for the person’s reservations. Ask, “I can see you are unsure about what I just presented; why is that?” One of the top sales techniques is to probe for objections. Only by getting objections out in the open can you deal with them.

  8. Use metaphors, analogies, and stories liberally. They help people visualize what you are saying and identify with it situationally. This approach also simplifies the message.

  9. When dealing with a team, or other groups of people, try to find an opportunity to have informal conversations with the parties concerned before the “persuasion” session. Getting people onside early and understanding any reservations will help you make your case later.

  10. Don’t turn persuasion into badgering. If you are facing resistance, ask, “What would it take to persuade you? Help me understand.” You may discover that the person, or team, simply needs more facts, stats, or background information. Open the door to the possibility that you may be willing to meet them halfway or partway.

Sometimes you can’t persuade people in one session. Respect their need for more information or simply time to mull over your position. Suggest you circle back in a few days and revisit the conversation. Persuasion should not be a war of attrition; if it is, you haven’t persuaded someone; you’ve battled them into submission. The latter will not serve you well moving forward. Do it right, however, and you will convince people in such a manner that you will achieve their buy-in. And that is worth money in the bank.